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News > Lifestyle > Lockdown Stories - Brian Toll (SH 69-74)

Lockdown Stories - Brian Toll (SH 69-74)

We hear from Brian Toll (SH 69-74) about his life in Brussels during the pandemic lockdown
22 Apr 2020
Brian Toll (SH 69-74) shares his 'Lockdown Story' and photos

‘Oh to be in England, Now that April’s there. And whoever wakes in England sees …’ Well, much the same as here in Brussels – tulips past their best, azaleas and wisteria in bloom, lily of the valley seemingly waiting for 1 May (tradition demands this offering to the ladies of the houses), the roses then to come during this inevitably long lock-down. Nature – foxes, hedgehogs, the occasional frog or shrew, trying to exit, pursued by a cat – is thriving as people, cars and lorries withdraw. As a friend read on the Internet, ‘Whoever said one person can’t change the world never ate an undercooked bat.’

Belgian police stop cars to ask why people are out: shopping is accepted but only pharmacies, newsagents and food shops are open. The local delicatessen, ‘Carpe Diem,’ has indeed seized the day, open 7/7 and adding basic essentials to their usual take-away lunch selection: potatoes, onions, flour, ham, cheese and, thankfully (this being Europe), wine.

Neighbours keep 6 feet distant even when passing in the street. But all come to their front doors or windows each evening at 8pm to applaud the health workers. One neighbour is re-learning the trumpet and ‘Summer Time’ follows the clapping, rather than vice versa as at concerts in normal times. There have been nearly 6,000 deaths so far, 40,000 confirmed cases, in this country of 11.5 million.

Boys will be boys and, to keep her young ones in check, another neighbour has invented ‘The Avenue Times.’ Recipes to try at home, quizzes, ideas for walks through local history.

Those who can, work from home. Children follow lessons via computer (exams are cancelled for the year and ‘continuous assessment’ of the first two terms will translate into final grades – flattering some, penalising others). But the schools remain closed for now; the army, which since the terrorist attack on Brussels airport and the metro system in March 2016 has guarded the entrance, tasked elsewhere.

We are told not to plan holidays this year – not England, not Greece, not even the grey seascape of the cliff-less Belgian coast. The frontiers remain closed anyway for the present. It looks like a summer of garage (where I keep my stereo system), garden and glasses (those for reading and those for drinking). William Dalrymple, ‘Les Misérables’ and John Le Carré have been invited to keep me company while time passes gently by.

Photos Chosen:
Leading Photo: Brian when worked at the European Commission.

1) Neighbours clapping in appreciation of the healthcare workers.

2) My family applauding the health workers.

3) The local delicatessen, 'Carpe Diem'.

4) A poster in the street reading 'I am at home/all together against COVID-19' - I love the irony of 'together' being the exact opposite of 'social distancing'.


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